Saturday, January 2, 2010

blue cheese & walnut crackers - ina forgot to mention the fire harzard, but i'll let it slide

blue cheese & walnut crackers (barefoot contessa) - 44If you know me, then you'd probably know that literally all I watch on television is the Food Network. This has to be the only recipe that I've actually seen on television that I decided to try (I usually just search through the Food Network online recipes). So one day I was watching Barefoot Contessa, and Ina was making these delicious looking cheese crackers for one of her many gay guy friends. It seemed like a nice change from making sweet cookies all the time, to make a savory almost-cookie. This recipe uses blue cheese, and seeing as how I am always on a budget, I decided to wait until I got to my parents house to try it. (I just want to say, I'm not a cheap ass like my boyfriend sometimes calls me- It's just, if I'm going to make a recipe that uses not-typical ingredients that I want to make sure that it is going to be exactly the way I want it to be. That being said, I'd rather try a recipe like that at my parents' and come to the conclusion if it really is worth the amount if I were going to make it at my own house. Just had to get that off my chest, lol.)

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I know I didn't get Stilton blue cheese, like Ina wanted, but my reasoning behind it was that this one I could portion the correct 8 ounces needed, opposed to the block of Stilton.

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Does it get any better than this- mixing butter and cheese together? Hehe.

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So the butter and cheese mixture (on the left) came out nice and smooth and smelt delectable. But once I added that damn flour, the hand mixer didn't want to mix anymore! The dough clumped up all the way up the sides as if the mixer had chubby thighs, and absolutely stopped the mixer from further mixing.

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Every so often I had to get a knife and push out the chunks of dough so the mixer would do its designated job.

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This was probably my favorite part- chopping the walnuts. Well, the chopping part wasn't my favorite, but the eating of wandering walnuts was.

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So Ina wanted me to roll this dough out into a 12-inch long log, but that just wasn't happening. There was too much dough and it just wouldn't roll evenly if I attempted such a feat. I instead separated the dough into 3 portions and worked with them one at a time.

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Each log gets an eggwash bath and then gets rolled into the chopped walnuts. The logs then get wrapped in plastic wrap and left to set in the fridge to firm up and stick together.

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Next I had to cut them into 3/8th-inch thick rounds. Unfortunately, I didn't have my handy ruler which usually helps me when I'm in such a predicament, so I just eyeballed it. (My eyeballs are pretty bad at estimating measurements by the way.)

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These puppies looked so tasty that I almost wanted to eat one raw. I loved how I could see all the tiny chunks of blue cheese and the small flecks of pepper.

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After they were in the oven for about 19 minutes (Ina wanted 22 minutes) me and my mother started smelling something burning. I literally ran to oven to check on my babies and once I opened up the oven, a huge cloud of smoke puffed up into my face. My first instinct was to take out all the baking sheets and turn the kitchen fan on to get rid of the smoke. Once the clouds ceased, I examined my crackers and interestingly enough they appeared perfectly fine.

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I'm not sure what exactly was burning or how that smoke started, but the crackers were all intact and had no evidence of being burnt. The strange burnt smell lingered throughout the house for a few hours though.

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Even more surprising, these tasted so delicious. The underside could be considered slightly burnt, but in all actuality it lent a nice crunch to the cracker. Remember, this is a cracker and not a cookie, which is good because this is exactly how a cracker should taste.

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The blue cheese gave a subtle savory taste, and the walnut crust was the perfect accompaniment. The small hints of pepper and salt also supplied a lovely addition and blended everything together. I always considered Ina Garten a cooking-goddess, but now I know for sure that she is (she just forgets to mention certain things, such as that your house may burn down in the process of baking an extraordinary cracker).

Taken from Ina Garten.

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
8 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 12 ounces with rind), at room temperature
1+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and Stilton together for 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it's in large crumbles, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.
2. Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly on the outside of the log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. Cut the log 3/8ths-inch thick with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

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